Monday, January 23, 2012

Bad Weekend for 'QB Wins'...

Incredible play by Eli Manning to cause two 49ers defenders to run into each other, thereby avoiding a costly interception!
…yet, it seems as if nobody noticed.

Strange, but hardly surprising considering the unfortunate inability of professional sports analysts to properly put their sport into context. Still, as predictable as today’s headlines were, I find myself just as disappointed and frustrated as I always am. You’d think I would have learned by now, right? You’d think I would have conditioned myself to deal with the inevitable onslaught of “(Insert ‘clutch’ QB’s name) wills his team to victory” narratives that pervade the conclusion of the conference championship games.
Well, I haven’t. No matter how hard I try, I can’t stop myself from getting upset. No matter what I tell myself, I can’t stop from getting angry every time I venture to the front page of ESPN’s web site. Perhaps I have an anger problem. Who knows? But really, how am I supposed to respond when I see the following stories:

“By earning a shot at a second ring, Eli Manning ended the debate over his elite status.”

“Patriots QB has harsh assessment of his play, but delivers team to another Super Bowl.”

And you wonder why I’m upset…

 I’m not sure when it all started, but somewhere along the way, somebody apparently decided that the QB should be the lone benefactor of a win. Thus, the ‘QB Wins’ stat has taken hold as one of the most illogically important stats of the day. Tom Brady’s sterling playoff record is held as clear proof of his superiority over the playoff win deficient Peyton Manning. Never mind that Manning has more yards, a higher completion percentage, a higher Y/A, a higher QB Rating, and a significantly higher DYAR – I mean, Brady ‘just wins games!’

“Just wins games”

Can somebody please explain to me what that means? If Brady’s stats are actually inferior (albeit, very close) to Manning’s, then what exactly is he doing to ‘just win games?’ Was he secretly suiting up as Mike Vrabel the whole time? Was it Brady who was filming their opponents’ practices all along? Was he repeatedly stabbing a Peyton Manning voodoo doll like the Maharaja kid in ‘Temple of Doom?’ Any ideas? Anybody?

Please don’t misunderstand; this isn’t meant to be a damning argument against Tom Brady. He’s one of the greatest QB’s of all-time and he’s performed very well in his playoff career. All I’m looking for is some sort of explanation as to the rational and logic behind the ‘QB Wins’ way of thinking. Until somebody can explain to me what “he just wins games” means, in a practical sense, I’m inclined to believe it’s the dumbest trend in sports.

The ironic thing is that the very same people who have spent the day counting Tom Brady’s Super Bowl rings and reciting Eli Manning’s road playoff record will, at some point, go on to call football “the ultimate team sport.” You’ve heard the tired old clichés – 11 on offense, 11 on defense, all working together to achieve the same goal. Well, which is it, guys? You can’t have it both ways.

Fact is, QB Wins took a huge beating yesterday. It doesn’t matter if the sports media wants to acknowledge it or not. It happened, and we all saw it. Neither Brady nor Manning performed particularly well, and they each had far less to do with their team’s victories than you might think. In fact, it could be argued that both were outplayed by their losing counterparts. Not hearing that today, are you?

“But, but…Brady and Manning won! Of course they were good. How else can you explain their team’s victories?”

(Shaking my head angrily) Let’s let Tom Brady explain this one:

“Well, I sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us.” – Tom Brady

Wait! You mean someone other than the QB can contribute to a team’s overall success?! You mean that we don’t have to go out of our way to pat the QB on the back even when he had nothing to do with the victory? What a novel idea! Apparently ESPN’s Chris Forsberg hasn’t caught on. In regards to the Patriots incredible success in the AFC Championship game, he writes:

“Brady shouldn't be so hard on himself. The AFC Championship Game has long been his statistical bugaboo, but the Patriots are still 5-1 in them over the past 11 years, so clearly he's doing something right.”

So, let me get this straight. Even though Brady has been statistically bad in the AFC Championship Game (6 TD to 7 INT), he’s still been good? Huh? Am I understanding this correctly?

Here’s the real truth:

1. Tom Brady was arguably the worst of the four QB’s. He missed several wide open throws, got bailed out on some tremendous third down catches, and was the beneficiary of a strong running game. His late INT was absolutely horrendous, and it would have cost New England the game had Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff not done him any favors. Giving Brady a “win” for his play on Sunday is pretty much the same as a closer getting a W after blowing a save in the top of the ninth, only to have his team score the game winning run in the bottom of the inning. Basically, it’s a vulture win.

2. Eli Manning  was anything but ‘elite’ in the Giants win over San Francisco. He needed 58 attempts to accumulate a very hollow 316 yards, a pitiful average of just 5.4 Y/A. He held onto the ball for far too long, allowing a vicious 49ers pass rush to be that much more effective, and losing big yards on critical possessions. He had two potentially game changing INT’s dropped because the ‘Niners defenders couldn’t stop running over each other. He had more than a few opportunities to win the game late, something a supposed ‘elite’ QB probably should do, but couldn’t convert any of them. The Giants advanced to the Super Bowl thanks to two huge turnovers by the 49ers…not because of anything Eli Manning did.

3. Joe Flacco was easily the best QB yesterday – and he lost.

Make no mistake, the Patriots and Giants are heading to the Super Bowl on the backs of the critical mistakes made by their opponents. It has nothing to do with their QB’s. In fact, it’s in spite of their QB’s. Thing is, this type of thing happens far more than you might imagine. Ironically, Peyton Manning’s least impressive (extended) postseason run was in 2006…the year he finally won the Super Bowl and became a ‘winner.’ Just goes to prove that teams win games, not QB’s.

So please, enough with the QB Wins stuff. No more talk of Tom Brady “doing just enough to get his team to the Super Bowl.” And seriously, stop telling me that you can’t spell ‘elite’ without Eli. You just sound dumb.


  1. Not only did the Niners run into each other to lose INT's, but the TD that got them back in the game was thrown against the DB who came in to replace the one who broke his back in 65 places and made me wince at home.

  2. Let's be have an anger problem

  3. Ironic that I would write this yesterday...I broke my first Xbox controller in over a year last night.

  4. Can we please add to that Ben Roethlisberger's incredible embarassment of a Super Bowl performance in 2005? He would have had a better passer rating had he drilled the ball directly into the ground on all 21 of his pass attempts. "But oh, Big Ben has 2 Super Bowl rings! That's more than Peyton Manning or Drew Brees!!" Never mind that the Steel Curtain decided to make a decade-long return to the NFL right around when he came along in Pittsburgh. Never mind that he's benefitted from playing NFC West rejects in both those Super Bowls!

  5. Big Ben has played pretty poorly in the playoffs. Not terrible, but not great. The ironic thing is that, prior to that first Super Bowl, he was having a tremendous playoff run. Once again, just goes to show that teams win, not QB's. Pittsburgh has had a really good TEAM, not just a good QB.